Hello, all! This is just my own take on TheOriginalHufflepuff's 'The Twelve Fics of Christmas' challenge, started a bit early (Hanukkah starts December 21st!) because all the Christmas music they've been playing at my work has kind of pushed me into the holiday spirit. ;-)

O Come All Ye Faithful

Their divorce is not her fault.

Verity knows this, but it doesn't mean she still doesn't feel a little bit guilty every time she shows up at his place and sees the lingering hints of Angelina. It's in things as obvious as the stray photo here and there that George still hasn't gotten around to putting away yet, and as subtle as the too-light color of the sofa that George never would have picked.

She feels even guiltier when he fucks her in the bed that he used to share with his wife, because even though the divorce isn't her fault, she's the one receiving all the benefits.

Roxanne's started calling her "Mummy" when she comes to watch them after work, but only when Fred is out of earshot. She thinks that she should tell George about it, or tell her "No, I'm not your Mum," but it makes her feel like she belongs. Like she's a part of this little family, and not just a stranger who happens to fall into their lives and go home at the end of every day.

She tries to tell him one afternoon when they put the twins down for a nap, but George just shuts the door behind them and leans against it, a grin on his face and his arms reaching out for her. He presses her up against the wall, hands roaming under her shirt and her own tangled up in his hair, his head resting in the soft crook of her neck as she fumbles with the zipper on his jeans. She bites his shoulder as she comes and he laughs quietly, both of them trying to muffle the sounds so that they don't wake up the kids in the next room and scar them for life.

She loves his laugh, but it's the next sound he makes – the breathy, private moan he makes against her neck – this is the sound she that loves the most.

George wants to shut down the Wheeze and take Fred and Roxie out to his parent's place in Devon for Christmas. He asks her what she's doing in bed one morning and she lies, telling him that she plans on spending the holidays with her family out in Oxford. He doesn't press the issue, just gets dressed and kisses her soundly before rushing out the door.

She's not going to Oxford. Verity checks into a hotel in Muggle London, partly because she's always loved the city during the holidays, but mostly because right now, she needs to be surrounded by crowds of people who don't care who she is.

The streets of London are freezing cold as she walks around in her too-thin coat, and she stops at a Muggle shop to pick up a coat that'll get her through the next few days. There are fewer people doing their last-minute shopping than she expected, and it's a quick thing to grab a warmer coat and a pair of gloves. On the way to the register she sees a jumper that George would look handsome in, but she doesn't pick it up.

Verity isn't sure how to define what the hell it is that they're doing, because it isn't as casual as they pretend and it isn't official, either. She's already sent her friends and family and coworkers at the Wheeze their Christmas gifts; she doesn't think buying George something extra will clarify their relationship.

When she gets back to her hotel room she curls up in bed and watches the snow fall outside her window, trying not to think about how good George looks in blue.

Verity finds a church and goes to Midnight Mass, because it's warm and well-lit and mostly because she promised her mother that she would. The choir sounds beautiful, and when she passes the collection box beneath the church's bulletin board, she stops and drops a fifty-pound note inside.

'Tis the season, and all that jazz.

She walks back to her hotel, her shoulders hunched against the wind and her hands shoved into the pockets of her coat for warmth, when she feels her phone vibrate. She pulls it out, expecting a missed call from her mother, or maybe a text message from her brother giving her shit about not showing up for the family party this year.

Have you paid4 your Cath

olic dues for the 9year?

It's signed G, and she remembers buying George the phone and showing him how to work it. She thinks of him braving the cold on the outskirts of his family home, his fingers fumbling with the keys as he types and trying not to cross the magical barrier of the property line, and she smiles. Verity taps at the keys of her own cell phone until she's got a reply.

I've got Jesus coursing through my veins as we speak.

The doorman opens the door for her and she hurries inside, into the warmth and the golden glow of the lobby. As she rides the elevator to the tenth floor, she thinks about what it would be like to spend the holidays with George, to listen to him laugh, to touch his hands and his face and back in front of their families and friends.

As she unlocks the door to her room, she feels her phone vibrate again and she smiles in anticipation.

It's just her brother, telling her that they miss her. She sends a text back and shuts off her phone, just so she doesn't have any excuse to wait.

Verity sleeps in the next morning, calls her mother as she orders in room service, and wishes everyone a Merry Christmas as they pass the phone around. It sounds like everyone is having fun with the presents she sent them, and for a second she wishes that she had gone home after all.

She spends the day watching old movies, mouthing the words along with the characters of It's A Wonderful Life that she and her brothers memorized as children. She always had a bit of a crush on Jimmy Stewart. After the sun goes down she walks around the city for a bit, just to look at the lights. There's a park across the street from her hotel and she sits on a bench for awhile, staring up at the snow drifting down from the darkening sky. If she keeps her head bent, the way the snow spirals down makes her think of the star-covered ceiling at Hogwarts.

When she gets back to her room she changes into pajamas, orders some more room service, and grabs a drink from the mini bar. She's never been one for drinking, but its Christmas and she need something to take her mind off of everything. She takes a sip of her beer, relishing the way the liquor feels on her tongue, when her phone rings for what might be the tenth time that day. She considers ignoring it because, as it turned out, spending the holiday by herself wasn't the cure for loneliness she'd imagined it to be and every phone call from family or friend she's gotten today has only served to remind her of that fact.

She ends up answering on the last ring before the call gets sent to voicemail, and the laughing voice that replies to her greeting makes her grin at the phone and set down the bottle.

"For a minute there I thought you'd been struck by lightning…you know, smite-d or something after that message last night."

Verity imagines his smile, the hint of a dimple in his cheek.

"I hear that Jesus is a forgiving guy. Plus there's the whole 'it's-my-birthday!' thing, which usually puts people in a good mood…I think I'm safe this time around."

There's a long moment where neither of them speaks and Verity takes a breath, preparing to break the silence. George beats her to it.

"So, I was thinking about..." George pauses and Verity wants to urge him on, to hear that he's been thinking about her as much as she's thought about him. But she doesn't and when he goes on, he doesn't finish the thought. "I just wanted to call and wish you a Merry Christmas, Ver."

She picks at a stray thread on the sleeve of her nightshirt and shakes her head, even though he can't see her. She's struck by the impulse to stop all of this nonsense, to stop hiding what she wants behind excuses of their work and his divorce and what other people will think.

"George," she begins, and she can hear the sudden intake of his breath on the other end of the line, like maybe he can hear how serious she is, like maybe he knows what she's going to say and he can't wait to hear it, or maybe doesn't want to hear it at all. The latter possibility stops her heart cold.

"Merry Christmas to you, too," Verity finishes, closing her eyes and biting her lower lip.

They don't talk again until New Year's Eve.

The dirty things she whispers into his ear as he moves inside her are only a fraction of what she really wants to say.